ORLANDO, Fla. — In the mid-90′s Florida voters approved public financing for campaigns statewide. The idea was to help level the playing field at a time when there were only a few ways to get known and only a few ways to raise money.
That is no longer the case.
Between changing campaign finance laws and the use of the internet, campaigns have unprecedented access to donors and money.
But the “free” campaign cash from Florida taxpayers remains.
“When this was enacted, you had to get on TV to be noticed, now you can get in front of voters in so many more ways,” says UCF political science professor Dr. John Hanley. “This is an antiquated policy solution to what used to be a catch-22, you can’t get on TV without money, and you can’t raise money unless you are on TV.”
In 2014 Florida taxpayers paid $4,336,040.04 to support statewide campaigns. Four years later in 2018 they paid $9,852,605.76, and so far, this year they have paid $6,762,774.13 for candidates running for Governor, Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer, and Commissioner of Agriculture; with another three months left before the November election.
As of Friday, July 29 the top recipient of taxpayer money is Governor Ron DeSantis, who has taken in $4,243,045. The Governor is followed in the money list by democratic candidates for governor Charlie Crist ($1,352,546) and Nikki Fried ($762,873).
Both Attorney General Ashley Moody ($237,893) and CFO Jimmy Patronis ($166,416) have also drawn down state dollars, even as neither has an opponent who has taken any state money so far.
The money, authorized by Florida voters in 1998, is voluntary and some candidates over the years have opted not to take the taxpayer funds since candidates can raise almost unlimited money from across the country on their own.
“There is reason for the taxpayer to think, ‘why we are continuing to do this,’” says Hanley.
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